Keep the downy dittany and storms will bring you calm,
Fill a vervain pillow for a thought-grieved head;
Cherish balm whene’er you can, there’s none too much of balm,
And never stop for rosemary, ’twill follow where you tread.
Taste the scarlet love-apple, if youth will drive you to,
But leave alone the rue—-
Fair lass, fine lad,
Leave alone the rue!
The Herb of Grace by Elsie Cole
Herb of Grace
Rue (Ruta graveolens) is an herb which has a long association with witches and magical rituals. The Romans called it Ruta which was shortened in English to Rue. Historically, rue is a protection herb and is routinely used in protection magic. Cats find the smell of rue to be offensive, and as such, the idea of rue used to ward off witches was born. It would seem that a talisman using rue may also be a sort of anti-witch charm. There is one charm, rooted in old Italy which may actually be a very magical talisman worn by witches themselves. This is the Cimaruta charm, an Italian folk charm which has changed little through time.
The Cimaruta Charm
The Cimaruta Charm (sprig of rue), also known as the witch’s charm, is typically a silver charm of the rue plant with its lobed leaves attached to specific symbols. This is the typical charm pictured at the right, and can be purchased here. Although there are
various symbols attached to the sprig of rue some of the more common symbols and their meanings are:
Rooster: dispels darkness much like the rooster calls in the dawn
Dagger: related to the arrow of Diana, the queen of witches
Crescent moon: related to the occult and occult forces
Vervain blossom: protection, much like the pentagram
Other symbols such as he heart, the hand and the horn, as well as cornucopia, and angel can also be found although the flaming heart and angel are probably newer Christian symbols.
The Cimaruta charm was commonly used as a charm to protect babies and was routinely hung on the crib of an infant for protection from envy and the evil eye up until the 19th century. Rue itself is protective so it has been speculated that the symbols on the sprig of rue are either there to increase these protective forces or for some other reason entirely. Raven Grimassi, in his book, The Cimaruta: And Other Magical Charms From Old Italy suggests that his research reveals that the Cimaruta is connected to Diana, the triformis goddess. In this way, the charm represents Hecate (key), Diana (Moon), and Porserpina or Persephone (serpent). He goes on to state that the Cimaruta Charm is not an anti-witch or anti-witchcraft charm at all but a charm worn by witches symbolizing their beliefs. It is a charm which has not changed much through time or become tainted with modern religious symbols for the most part.
I decided to make my own Cimaruta charm out of a sprig of Rue instead of casting it in silver. I used the symbols of rooster, moon, key, dagger, and vervain blossom. These symbols are used in a magical alignment in Raven Grimassi’s book. I attached the symbols with ribbon, added a nice rose for color and did the alignment. This Cimaruta now hangs in my garden.
A very magical place indeed…